There are many goals the author attempts to achieve but the most probable one is to alert the reader, as Amrita Pritam believes, of the backwardness of the rural society in India from a feminist perspective. She does this using a special approach in which she does not adopt the critical method nor does she comment either with or against, in fact, she takes the stance of an observer to try and repel the possible accusations from the reader of her being biased, unjust and leaning towards the western ideology. The story is like a reflection of Indian customs and tradition where members of the community are obliged to think of other individual views and so surrender by committing acts for the simple grounds that others may resent it. This habit or ritual is also found in many other societies showing that Indian way of life is a mixture of different backgrounds and beliefs.Order now
Moving on to the narrative under analysis, the writer carefully selects the title which is also a powerful phrase that seals the story and its main purpose. The ‘Kerosene’ of the title is the liquid used for the Hindu practice of ‘Sati’ where the wife of a lost husband soaks her clothes with paraffin or kerosene and sets herself alight consequently burning to death. The writer could have meant that this practice basically ‘stinks’ as much as kerosene itself, and its clash with modern principles (i.e. old practices such as the ‘Sati’ are ancient and merely history, not for acting upon.)
The story reveals that the oppressed character Guleri, who is the wife of Manak another main character, is almost a slave, not only physically where she does all the labour, sweeping the floor, cleaning the house but also in her dealings as she does not possess full control of her actions since her mother-in-law’s opinions enjoy great dominancy in all important decisions. Guleri, in this story, represents all Indian girls or young ladies. The author chiefly uses this substantial character in order to depict the suffering of girls in such a society and the injustice which is committed against them. The married girl, in this case Guleri, is not permitted to visit her parents frequently and the writer, Amrita Pritam, shows this by saying that Guleri was to visit her parents only once a year, “Once every year, after the harvest had been gathered in, Guleri was allowed to spend a few days with her parents.
The writer also describes the married girl’s desperateness to see her parents by first describing in sufficient detail how she ran out of the house when she “recognised the neighing” of a mare and she puts in a short sentence “The mare was from her parent’s village”2 to give the statement some value, she then describes Guleri’s jubilant but silent reaction when she imagines her father’s house in ‘Line 3’ of the story. Guleri’s homesickness is not neglected and is mentioned in the second paragraph where the location and the distance between the two villages.
“Whenever Guleri was homesick she would take her husband, Manak, and go up to this point.”3 The point referred to is the one where her parent’s village would be visible from. This shows that Guleri was occasionally homesick and that the closest she could get to her beloved parents was a glance where their village would just show in the horizon. Amrita Pritam, in an attempt to exemplify how Guleri is deprived from seeing her parents frequently she points out: “Guleri always counted the days to the harvest.”
The girl whose sufferings are being uncovered by the author is also not allowed to travel by herself, “They sent a man to Lakarmandi to bring her back to Chamba.” This would mean that the girl would be made dependant rather than independent. The husband’s family play a crucial role in the running of the wife’s life, especially the most feared mother-in law. The power of the mother-in-law (from the male side) is one of the main points used to illustrate the backwardness of such societies. The wife Guleri acknowledges this fact in the story when replying to Manak as he was trying to persuade his wife not to go to the festival, “‘Your mother’s said nothing so why do you stand in the way?’ ”
Another major factor of Indian culture which is also linked to the mother-in-law is the shame or even the crime of not being able to produce a child which makes the wife completely useless and not worth remaining as a partner. This is not necessarily because the mother of the husband dislikes the ‘worthless’ wife, in fact, the main possible reason is the mother-in-law’s worry from her friends or family as they could go around gossiping that she hasn’t had any grandchildren. So this particular point could defame and affect the family’s honour, leading their family to consequently marry their son, Manak, to a new bride for the cheap price of five hundred (500) rupees, showing that the wife’s value is little more than that of a farm animal.
Despite what has been said so far the story is not totally critical, this is evident when the writer does not neglect the happy occasion of the harvest festival although it was mentioned to say that this is the only happy occasion in the wife’s life: “Their dupattas would be dyed, starched and sprinkled with mica to make them glisten. They would buy glass bangles and silver ear-rings.” The story also reflects the romantic part of Indian culture where Manak first met Guleri, describing her, many years after his encounter with her, as: “…’unripe corn – full of milk.’ ” This proves that the husband does love the wife but nothing is in his hands and if his mother says so then it must be so.